Parentage definition

If you are a parent or wish to become one in the United States, you may have heard of the term ‘parentage.’ It is a word used in family law to indicate the establishment of the legal parent(s) of a child. It also refers to parental rights and responsibilities in America.

Keep reading to learn more about parentage and what it covers.

What Is Parentage in the U.S.?

You may be already familiar with the concept, but you may usually only associate it with paternity, meaning the establishment of the legal father and father rights and responsibilities.

To reflect changes in society and the modern concept of family in the United States, parentage now covers:

  • Biological parents
  • Non-biological parents (usually meaning parents who have chosen to adopt
  • Legal guardians (meaning those whose parentage has been established by a court of law)
  • Surrogate mothers

Parentage was first made into law in 1973, with the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). The original UPA related to both married and unmarried parents. When there is uncertainty or conflict over the establishment of parentage, courts refer to the UPA framework to rule.

The UPA has been updated several times, most recently in 2017, when it started recognizing same-sex and de facto parents.

How to Establish Parentage in America

The UPA is adopted in one form or another by the different U.S. states and there are several ways to establish parentage. Here are some examples:

  • Finding the original birth certificate
  • DNA testing
  • Assuming that biological, married parents are the legal parents (unless challenged)
  • Voluntary declarations of parentage
  • Previous court orders ruling over custody

If parentage is not established, the court cannot rule on several family law issues such as:

  • Child support
  • Health insurance
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Name changes
  • Reimbursement of pregnancy and birth expenses

Parentage Rights and Responsibilities

Accepting parentage also means assuming certain legal responsibilities and rights towards the child. For example:

  • Financial support of the minor
  • Extending health insurance to cover the child (only one parent)
  • Allowing the child to inherit
  • Extending social security and veteran benefits to the child (if applicable)
  • Being referred to as parent on legal documentation
  • Having access to the child’s medical records and history
  • Giving the child access to the family’s medical records and history
  • Giving consent on whether the minor can be adopted
  • Supporting the child and making decisions regarding their educational and spiritual upbringing

An adult who is already carrying out the above duties, accepting the parentage responsibilities, and interacting with the child daily may be ruled as a de facto parent by a court of law in a parentage case.

It is possible for more than 2 parents to have the rights and responsibilities established by parentage.